Client Success Story: Something New Farm
Dané Hiniker | Mankato, MN
Can you tell us a little bit about your business?
Something New Farm is really a hobby that has evolved into a business. I started sheep farming for my own use, and then I got into dairy cows, just wanting the milk for our own family. My goals are to provide good, healthy, raw milk to families who want it, as well as Icelandic sheep meat, and wool that can be used for hand spinners and crafters. I’m also working towards becoming entirely grass fed.
How and why did you get started? What was it that pushed you from having a passion to turning that passion into a business?
I actually went to an event when I was about eight, and there was a lady who was using a weaving loom. I don’t remember the whole conversation, but I was talking to her, and she let me use the loom a couple of times. She talked to me about spinning and weaving and sewing – all that kind of stuff. When I went home, I told my mom all about it. My mom has shared some of that story back to me, and I guess I didn’t stop talking about it for days. I thought I was going to have my own sheep, and my own spinning wheel and weaving loom and learn how to make my own clothes. At the time, my mom’s answer was, let me know how I can help you.
My mom and dad have always supported my dreams of learning how to do those things. They helped find someone to teach me sewing and weaving, helped me when I wanted to order a spinning wheel, and finally found one. Later, my dad lent me his van, and my mom and I drove to pick up my first sheep and bring him home. They’ve always encouraged me; we are four generations on the same family farm right now.
So that’s sort of how I got into it. The more I learned, the more I wanted to do. Then people started asking me if they could buy some milk, and I started branching out. Eventually, my hobby got too expensive, and it needed to become a full business. I started a marketing class last year, learning and reading everything I could get my hands on, doing some Sustainable Farming Association classes, which is how I met Tina and learned about the opportunities through the [MBFFA] grant.
I found an old journal the other day and 20 years ago I wrote in there, can I do farming? Can I make a go of farming and work at the same time? And it’s funny because that question has just come back up. I just switched from a hobby to farming and started to focus on turning this into an actual business.
What made you want to pursue your venture specifically in Region 9?
A large part of it is that I was born here. This is where I’m located, and this is where it has worked out for me to stay long term.
How would you describe the importance of community?
I have a large community, just within my family, and it’s been huge to have that support. Yes, you can support yourself, produce for yourself, but it’s so much easier when you can come together with others. Different people can focus on different things that they are best at. Even with starting a business, I’m good at working with the animals, but there are things I’m not so good at. Learning and reaching out to others has been helpful for me. Is business my strong suit? No, and that’s okay. Find the community around you, whether it is people who just encourage you, or those that have knowledge and are willing to share it.
What start-up resources have you taken advantage of in Region 9?
This was a hobby for so many years, and I never looked into what might be available for farming startups or turning this into an actual business. It was different at first. I was producing for my own family, not reaching out, not looking to sell a product or anything like that.
Tina LeBrun [Southern Agricultural Center of Excellence] has helped with tracking business expenses and has walked through some initial paperwork with me. That was especially helpful when I was first filing, just to have someone else read through it with you and confirm that you are doing things right.
What has been your greatest success?
I guess I’ve been having some little successes. In the last year I managed to sell all the lambs, and then this year, knowing a little bit more about what I was doing, I’ve had the confidence to really make a go of the business. That’s been a big success. If we come close to at least breaking even, that would be great. I’ve made a couple of big investments this year, which I think were the right moves at the time. We will have to see how things go.
What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?
Ask for help when you need it and read everything you can.
What are your hopes for the future?
I hope I can get to a point where I’m covering the cost of animals, but also providing some income so that I can take a step back from my day job. Hoping I can make a go of it.